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Authorities close Gold Rock motel

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A court-ordered injunction is posted at the lobby entrance of the Ashburn Inn in Gold Rock informing the pubic that the motel has been closed as a nuisance.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Ashburn Inn in Gold Rock has been shuttered by a court-ordered injunction as result of a complaint from state and local officials calling the motel an eyesore crawling with criminals and cockroaches.

Authorities wouldn't comment on the unfolding litigation, but affidavits attached to the nuisance abatement lawsuit paint a picture of a crime-ridden Wild West-like motel where the owner packs a pistol, prostitution is rampant and fist fights are commonplace.

The motel is the nexus of crime for a down-trodden truck stop area on Interstate 95 in northern Nash County that was once an oasis for weary travelers. Gold Rock once boasted a Shoney's and Howard Johnson. Now motels like the Ashburn Inn harbor drug dealers and gang members, according to the civil action filed this week at the Nash County Courthouse against Ashburn Inn owners, the Patel family.

Parth Patel told the Telegram that county authorities didn't leave any options open to his family, which has run the motel for almost a decade.

"We can't operate the business," Patel said. "But we still own the land. We're going to tear down the property, sell it and move on from here."

Patel said he's worried about the permanent residents at the motel like a disabled Army veteran who has called the motel his home for six years.

The motel can't accept any new guests and all guests have to be out of the motel in a week.

Patel said he was trying to cooperate with authorities, but they didn't care. That claim is disputed by law enforcement officials in the court filings.

An elderly Pennsylvania couple who stopped at the Ashburn on Wednesday afternoon were turned away by an employee who said the motel isn't renting rooms. A copy of the injunction is posted on the motel's lobby door.

The owners know or should have known about all the “indecent, disgraceful and intolerable” acts committed at the motel, according to the request for permanent injunction filed by Nash County Attorney Vince Durham.

Attached affidavits describe a grim setting known for shootings, stabbings and all manner of violence. The affidavits include statements from law enforcement officials, emergency medical workers, former motel employees, a drug dealer and a nearby motel owner.

Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone stated that he had personally witnessed the following activities at the motel: Drug deals, prostitution, loud music, drunk and disruptive behavior, violent acts and illegal gun sales.

“I feel it is not safe for any law enforcement officer to respond to a call for service at the property without exposure to inordinate and undue danger,” Stone stated.

The affidavits include a statement from a female police officer who was punched in the face while responding to a call at the motel. According to court records, dating back to 2014 authorities have responded to the motel more than 100 times for weapons, fights, robberies, prostitution, drugs, rapes, assaults, disturbances, stabbings, overdoses, indecent exposure and shots fired, among other crimes, according to the complaint that lists dozens of convicted felons who frequented the motel.

Sgt. Brandon Jenkins of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office stated validated gang members frequented the property; and in May the motel's manager was hit in the head by a guest wielding a stapler.

Jenkins stated a former employee told him he was paid $3 per room that he cleaned. The former employee often found crack, powder cocaine, needles and pipes in vacated rooms. Two or three times a week rooms would be occupied for a couple of hours and the employee would find used condoms on the floor of the room. Guns were found about twice a month. The former employee also said the Patels told prostitutes and drug users to do whatever they wanted as long as they stayed in their rooms.

Chief Deputy Brandon Medina stated that waste had been improperly discharged at the property.

The investigation into alleged illegal activity at the motel included cooperation from the Rocky Mount Police Department, with Officer Donald Crusenberry stating he has responded to “repeated altercations which create and constitute breaches of the peace, including but not limited to assaults, affrays, shots fired, loud and profane language and drunk and disorderly behavior.”

Jason Bland, a Nash County EMT, stated he has responded to numerous drug overdoses at the motel.

“The property is infested with roaches and bed bugs,” Bland stated. “I have told people to step outside out of their rooms for me to speak with them or address their needs due to roaches crawling all around the room. I did not want to put my EMS bag on anything in the rooms.”

Bland stated he knows an EMT who was bit by bed bugs and another who had to have his home fumigated after picking up bed bugs at the Ashburn Inn.

Sarla Vyas, owner of the nearby Red Carpet Inn, stated a resident at the Ashburn assaulted her and threatened to kill her.

Wayne Kaye, a former motel employee, stated he witnessed a lot of goings-on during his eight months of employment.

“I have seen men I knew to be married or in a committed relationship rent rooms at the property and meet females there,” Kaye said.

Multiple affidavits state the motel was a place rife with prostitution and assignation, which is defined in the dictionary as “an appointment to meet someone in secret, typically one made by lovers.”

Morgen Lewis, an admitted drug dealer, stated he has conducted illicit business at the motel.

“I have personally sold prescription pills to persons at the property,” Lewis stated. “If I was from out of town and drove past the property, I would not feel safe to stay there based on the way it looks and the appearance of the subjects there.”

The Nash County Board of Commissioners established a committee last year to look into ways to improve Gold Rock, which was satellite annexed by Rocky Mount in 1997. The area is now made up of about half a dozen hotels, two diners, several gas stations and an ABC Store. A boarded-up restaurant and motel sit in the middle of the sprawling truck depot.

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